How to Prepare Your WooCommerce Store for the Holiday Season: A Web Developer’s Guide
Online holiday shopping is a booming industry that is showing no signs of slowing down. In 2020 alone, over $200 billion was spent by shoppers in the United States during the holiday season. As more and more customers turn to online shopping, it’s vital to ensure that your website is prepared for the influx of shoppers. So how do you do that? Inspry has compiled all of this information and more in our web developer’s guide to getting your WooCommerce eCommerce store ready for holiday shoppers.
Make sure your website can handle extra traffic
When considering the holiday online shopping season, you have to think about more than just the items you’re selling. Anticipating the issues your customers might run into when navigating your site amid peak traffic times is crucial. First and foremost, you have to start with making sure your site can handle large amounts of traffic. Thus, the process of prepping your website for holiday traffic is not one that should be left until the last minute. It’s best to start preparing months in advance, with the end of summer being the ideal starting point.
- Check-in on your DNS server
Traffic overload will always be the biggest problem for eCommerce sites. For customers to buy from you, everything on your site must be in complete working order to ensure a sale. It’s best to check with your web developer and support staff to see if your DNS servers are ready to go. If not, it’s time to upgrade. We recommend using a global DNS provider such as Cloudflare, which provides best-in-class DNS performance and security for WooCommerce websites.
- Host content on a CDN instead of internally
Just 3 seconds of waiting on a site can cause a potential customer to take their purchases elsewhere. To guarantee that your site’s content will load quicker, the content should be hosted on a CDN. A content delivery network (CDN) ensures customers receive blazing website speeds wherever they are—keeping your customers happy and securing a sale. CDN Providers such as KeyCDN and Cloudflare are affordable and even have free tiers for smaller online stores.
- Consider auto-scaling your site to protect against traffic spikes
All hosting packages have their limits when it comes to site traffic. Turning on auto-scaling means that your site will be protected against any sudden spikes in visitors. Taking steps to prevent your site from slowing to a crawl can save time and headaches for both you and your customers. eCommerce hosting companies such as Nexcess have auto-scaling built right into their WordPress platform. Others like Cloudways send out alerts and you can scale up or down as you need without much hassle.
- Use tools to check your site’s metrics
It’s important to take the time to take all of the important pages on your site and run them through a few different performance checking tools, like Google PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix. It’s best to do this multiple times for each page to get good baseline results. Be sure to include concurrent users in the tests so you know exactly where your site caps out.
- Double-check your SSL Certificate
The average customer is becoming increasingly aware of the security concerns that come with online shopping. An unsecured browser can cause customers to become wary of providing their payment information on the site. Now is the time to check on your SSL certificate so you don’t miss out on sales. You can use a tool like SSL Labs to make sure your SSL security certificate is validated and functioning. Most hosts offer free certificates through a vendor such as Let’s Encrypt.
- Use a WordPress caching plugin
It’s no secret that customers want the best possible user experience. Caching plugins can help reduce load time and latency. This lends itself to creating the fastest loading store possible. Be sure to choose the highest-rated options that do the work without bogging down the site, and test thoroughly since caching can cause unpredictable behavior with some WordPress themes and plugins. WordPress caching plugins like WPRocket and Perfmatters are all-star solutions that cover most situations within WooCommerce without too much setup.
- Optimize your site for mobile users
If your site isn’t set up for mobile viewing, you are potentially missing out on a vast amount of conversions. In 2020, 52% percent of holiday purchases were completed on smartphones. Don’t wait until the final hour to make the necessary changes: speak with your developers to implement and test changes now with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
- Give your web development team a heads up
No one likes to be surprised by a sudden workload. If you are planning on rolling out sales, now is the time to discuss it with your team. This forewarning gives them time to prepare to monitor all aspects of the site for any issues during the sale.
- Get your customer support team ready
Take a moment to check in with your customer support team. Find out if they are prepared to answer any questions or complaints. It is also important to ask them if they feel that they need any extra support or if they will be short-staffed at any point during the busy season. Make sure all support channels including chatbots, email forms, and ticket and phone systems can be handled by your support staff.
Prep your site’s design elements for online shoppers
If you plan on making any changes to the overall look of the site or aspects of the marketing campaign, it is crucial that you discuss it with those involved with the changes now. Make a list of what will be needed, and which members of the staff will be involved. Making a written web checklist prior to your sales promotions is not a bad idea as well.
- Make creative changes early
The design team will need time to get everything in place and looking perfect for the customer. Check with the web developers to ensure that the changes you want to implement don’t cause the site to lag. You should also set deadlines for each element as soon as possible since you do not want to be making any changes that could disrupt customers during the peak season.
- Plan and create landing pages
Updated and relevant landing pages can help drive interest in the products you want to promote and increase sales. Discussing what landing pages to create for which products or promotions is a conversation that is best had sooner rather than later. A/B testing tools such as Google Optimize or WordPress-specific plugins such Thrive Headline Optimizer can help you determine what pages are performing the best, including those built-in WooCommerce.
- Don’t wait to create your ads
Regardless of whether or not you have an ads manager on staff or if you are making everything on your own, you will need graphics for your ads. Start deciding now what exactly you want to promote, when you want the ads to run, your ad budget, and how long you want them to run.
- Pre-write email blasts, social posts, and other site content
No matter the type of content you are writing, it is not a quick process, especially if you have other things to work on. Plan for time spent not only writing but proofreading and having the content approved by the legal department if necessary. SaSS tools such as MailChimp or Klaviyo provide easy integration with social media advertising while native WordPress plugins such as FluentCRM integrate deeply with WooComemrce to help streamline the process.
Determine your selling strategy for this holiday season
Sales are driven by strategy. Figure out what yours is and what all it entails. How much research needs to be done? Are there goals that need to be met? Sale windows and prices to decide on? Margins to keep track of? Don’t wait!
- Competitive research is key
If there was ever a time to seriously check out your competitors, this is it. Take a look at their social media, email marketing, and website to get ideas for ways to take their ideas and improve them. Marketing agencies can help you through this process or you can use competitive tracking tools yourself such as SEMRush, Rank Tracker, and SpyFu.
- Set your budget now
All forms of marketing need a budget. Budgets are the best way to make sure that your profit margins are where you want them to be. No one wants to spend more on marketing than they can feasibly make from sales. You should take a look at what products are eligible for sales based on the margins available and promote accordingly.
- Schedule sale prices in advance
What will be your pricing strategy for your store? Will you be doing store-wide discounts, promoting certain items, or going for another type of sale? Confirm what will be on sale, for how long, and for how much. Make sure your web design and development team has created the necessary assets and layouts to accompany your sales promotions.
- Set up tracking for your key performance indicators
Chances are your company has KPIs set for the quarter or possibly the whole year already. Verify that you have an efficient way to measure them during the holiday season. This can include creating tracking links, such as UTM codes, to track campaigns. WooCommerce has a plethora of plugins available to help your development team integrate all required tracking links, codes, and pixels.
- Check your pay per click management accounts
Most WooCommerce stores utilize a variety of pay per click advertising to push traffic during holiday sales promotions. Consider checking over your PPC accounts for any technical issues being reported prior to kicking off your sales campaigns. This will reduce the risk of lost sales or unnecessary click spend from conflicts within the platform.
Implement strategies to keep holiday shoppers on your site (and convert them)
One task every eCommerce site has in common is creating ways to keep shoppers on the site and close the sale. Some of the ways to do this include prepping your online inventory, creating product bundles to entice spending, and updating the design to influence specific movements around the site.
- Provide discount codes or e-gift cards
For better or worse, shoppers expect deals and discounts throughout the holiday season, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On top of that, many last-minute purchasers find themselves without enough time to have an item delivered and will opt for e-gift cards. You can easily offer e-gift cards using WooCommerce plugins such as Smart Coupons.
- Highlight customer support features
If a customer needs help, will they be able to quickly and easily get the assistance and answers they need? If not, you may want to think about relocating live chat, email, or click-to-call buttons to a more accessible area, as well as the hours each service is available.
- Create “save” or “favorite” functions
Marking an item as a favorite allows the user to save the product for later so when they come back to the site, either when they have more time or are prepared to spend, they can easily find what they wanted. Checkout the various WordPress plugins for WooCommerce wishlists.
- Create a cart abandonment email campaign
Everyone walks away from a filled cart at some point. To remind cart abandoners of what they may be missing, employ the use of a well-designed email campaign to grab their attention. There are countless apps and plugins available that, after a one-time setup, can be set to seamlessly send out the emails. MailChimp’s deep integration with WooCommerce enables a simple abandoned cart email out of the box, or you can use one of the available plugins such as Abandoned Cart for WooCommerce.
- Alert customers to items that are back in stock
If a product on your site is showing its status as “out-of-stock,” customers will begin to search for it elsewhere. By offering “back in stock” notifications, customers who get the alert are more likely to return to your site to make their purchase. You can also see what products are in high demand and being requested to be back in stock, allowing you to follow product cycle trends.
Ensure checkout is simple for eCommerce customers
Checkout pages that are difficult to navigate or frustrating to complete can have a dramatic impact on revenue. Take a step back and walk through the whole process as if you are the shopper. Make notes on anything that needs to be improved or tweaked prior to the holiday kickoff.
- Add a credit card scanner
Credit card scanners have become the way of the future. If on a mobile device, users can choose the scanner option and utilize the camera on their device to instantly input their card information.
- Keep checkout simple
Containing the entire process to one page keeps the transactions feeling seamless. When checkout is simpler, there are fewer chances of having a customer’s slow internet connection timeout while loading multiple pages, hindering their ability to complete a purchase.
- Keep form fields to a minimum
Having minimal form fields on the page not only assists with seamlessness but also with reducing load times and assuring the customer that you are only collecting the data that you actually need.
- Provide multiple payment options
People like options. This is why you shouldn’t limit your customers to just one method of payment. Instead, offer buy now, pay later payment options like Afterpay, PayPal Pay Later, or Klarna in addition to the standard card options.
- Be upfront about shipping costs
No one enjoys surprise shipping costs. It’s best practice to clearly state all of the shipping providers you work with and any related fees early on in the transaction. Make sure you are balancing your profit and customers’ fees based on your industry and shipping margins. Offering free shipping during the holiday season is a fantastic way to increase sales if your margins allow for that.
- Automate taxes
Take the guesswork out of sales tax. Your eCommerce store can use software or service such as Avalara or TaxCloud for automated sales tax compliance in each state Nexus. These services can not only calculate the taxes, but file them to the specific tax entities when needed.
Optimize shipping methods for ultimate customer satisfaction
While the holidays are notorious for clogging up mail carriers, creating package delays, and, oftentimes, disappointments, there are things you can do to make shipping easier for both you and your customers.
- Make shipping and packing efficient
No one wants unexpected delays or extra fees when they need to get their gifts in a hurry. It doesn’t hurt to check in with your fulfillment department and make sure that everything is running smoothly. You can utilize apps such as ShipStation, ShippingEasy, or Ordoro to provide live shipping times for your customers. This also reduces the chances of errors in data entry by shipping or warehouse staff.
- Streamline international shipping
If you are selling to international customers, shipping can become a bit trickier. Software providers, such as Zonos, can make it more simple to factor in duties and tax when it comes to international shipping concerns. Zonos provides the full landed cost for taxes, shipping, and duties, so neither you nor the customer see unexpected fees following order fulfillment.
Use this shopping season to improve your site for the future
The increase in visitors to your site this holiday season can provide you with information that can prove to be invaluable if utilized correctly. Take a look below at some of the ways you can use this time to improve your site’s overall performance.
- Don’t forget to review your performance data
Now is the appropriate time to go back and take a look at the KPIs that you chose at the beginning of the holiday prep process and see what has been successful so far. You can take this information and use it to strategize for the future.
- Optimize site for SEM
Search Engine Marketing can help new customers find your site more easily and boost your products. Whether organic search or pay per click advertising, SEM has many different elements, all of which can be a great way to increase your visibility overall.
- Keep site updated and mobile-friendly
It should come as no surprise that customers who have a good experience on your site will most likely return later. You should remember to keep your site updated and easy to navigate on mobile devices to increase your rate of returning customers.
- Start planning for next year well in advance
The best time to plan for the next holiday season is right now. It’s never too early to start strategizing. You and your team are fresh off of the rush and know exactly what needs to be done and what should be changed. Use this knowledge to your advantage.
Optimize your store with fully managed WooCommerce hosting from Inspry Finally, our best tip for a seamless holiday shopping experience is to invest in a fully managed WooCommerce hosting plan from Inspry. Since 2011, our team has been developing rock-solid web solutions for our clients. Our e-commerce solutions ensure that you can offer customers the best possible shopping experience this holiday season. Contact us today to get started!